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Pope's First Easter Mass Sends Messages Of Peace

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Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass praying for world peace and urging a diplomatic solution to the standoff on the Korean peninsula.

Only two weeks after his election, the first pope from the developing world continues to make his mark on the Catholic Church.

St. Peter's Square was bedecked with flowers and packed with joyous pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass.

In his first message to the city and to the world, Francis urged peace for the Middle East and for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted too long.

"Peace in Iraq," Francis said, "that every act of violence may end, and above all, for dear Syria. ... How much suffering must there still be before a political solution can be found?"

The Argentine-born pope also decried terrorism in the war-torn countries of Africa: Mali, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. He appealed for peace in Asia, especially on the Korean Peninsula. May disagreements be overcome, he said, and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Francis' most intense appeal was for what he called a world divided by greed, looking for easy gain, wounded by selfishness. He singled out human trafficking, calling it the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century. He urged peace for a world torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources.

In keeping with his humble image, Francis wore simple unadorned vestments and celebrated the Mass alone, without his cardinals. In another contrast with his predecessor, the rituals this holy week have been shorter than in past years.

The new pope has struck a chord with his direct language and by referring to himself as the bishop of Rome rather than supreme pontiff.

One of Francis' most surprising acts was at the holy Thursday ritual last week, when, in an unprecedented move, he washed the feet of two women. This raised eyebrows among traditionalists, who say that only men can partake of the rite since Jesus' apostles were all male.

Vatican analysts say it's too early to say whether Francis is ushering in a Catholic Church spring; up to now the changes have been in tone and symbolism, but they've already galvanized the hopes of many Catholics that the church will soon embrace needed and substantial reforms.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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